Bang; the gun fires
clink; pulling the bolt back ejects the spent casing from the breach
the firing pin is cocked
dink; the casing ricochets off the floor
click; the bolt is pushed forward firmly and locks in place
a new round is now chambered in the breach
‘Hmm, that one poked his head out of cover so foolishly, almost tauntingly.’
‘These Germans are so brass, so arrogant, even the gung-ho Americans aren’t as bad, at least they usually know not to dice with death at the whim of their egos.’ he thought.
He scrawled another line on the tally without even pulling away from the scope - a running count scratched diligently on the wooden windowsill ledge the rifle butt was resting on. ‘This unit has been advancing so tirelessly,’ he reflected melancholy, ‘even in the face of constant sniper fire. How foolish. It seems that they know no other strategy than to press forward.’
Some of his comrades were posted in various other strategic positions and what with the increased activity the city was seeing recently, he was sure they must have reigned down hell on the throngs of Axis troops trying to move through the city. As lone snipers, their role was simply cause chaos and to thin out the ranks as much as possible as they moved from one objective to another, so that when, or if, they do arrive at their original destination, they arrive demoralized and wounded, giving the allied infantry a huge advantage in whatever that entails.
His sector had been lamentably unfrequented recently, even though it contained a bridge vital to traversing back and forth through the south-eastern part of the city. An important choke point. He could just see it in the distance. There was quite a large hole blown out of it’s surface, exposing the now warped and deformed metal rebar threaded throughout the concrete. It signified what he could only assume was an unsuccessful (in it’s estimation of the required ordnance) demolition attempt, but by which side, and for what purpose, he couldn’t tell. The bridge was still traversable, even by armor, the destruction had been minimal and hadn’t affected the bridge’s stability in any meaningful way; Soviet engineering had a knack for being quite indestructible at times.
‘And another Looky Lou yet!’
A head peered through a gaping hole in the sandbag cover.
Another mark added.
Today had been colder than most, hell, it had been the coldest he could remember. There had been some light snow fall earlier in the morning but it’s legacy was now simply the thick dirty gray slush which covered the ground. A cold wind got to blowing on occasion, but never strong enough to seriously affect his accuracy. His joints were aching from the strain of constantly maintaining the hunched over standing position, and his overcoat had frozen stiff in some areas, making pulling back the bolt each time more of an effort than he’d like. The scope had even grown icy at points, obscuring his sight, so he’d had to disassemble and clean it periodically, a real annoyance, especially when it happened at inopportune moments… such as heavy fire on his position. The gun’s parts were in desperate need of oiling now too, but he daren’t risk the procedure for it would mean being left completely helpless for whatever it’s duration amounted to.
He’d had chance to exchange his trusty Mosin-Nagant for a discarded German Kar98k but after toying with the rifle he discovered the weighting made for awkward shouldering and the alignment of the sights left something to be desired, so he would stick with the Belgium rifle his Soviet brothers had so appropriately adopted as their own; it might get very close to breaking on occasion but would thankfully always hover above the line of remaining functional, always remain able to put some lead down range, even if the accuracy beyond 350 meters got a bit sketchy, but he didn’t mind much, the square he surveyed from this particular post didn’t stretch very far in any direction, boxed in by the tower blocks that used to be people’s homes.
Currently he was in one of the larger of the blocks, in a bedroom of an apartment he had forced his way into, probably a woman’s; there was a dresser and make-up table. He was perched at the window that looked out on the square. A fine vantage point indeed. Visibility was good in all directions. From the exterior, this wall of the tower was like most others, just drab gray concrete covered with a mass of anonymous windows. Perfect cover.
After some advice from a comrade famed for his obscenely high count, he’d spritzed the opposite end of his scope with some muddy water. It didn’t obscure the all important cross-hair like the icicles tended to, but it meant that the glass in his scope wouldn’t catch and reflect the light, giving away his position. He had also fashioned some small debris at the window ledge to cover the end of his rifle which was only slightly protruding out of the half-opened window. The actual glass pane was unsurprisingly fogged with crystallized condensation and it provided fair visible cover when he needed to stand up properly.
Of course, if they ever did manage to zero in on his position. He had a few hundred other apartments to choose from, and several other tower blocks still, if that failed.
He peeked down at the remaining men, all huddled behind a half-destructed wall. They were gesturing at one another wildly, apparently undecided as how to counteract this mysterious sniper. One of them spoke and the others grew silent. He sighed. They had revealed who their ranking officer was.
The Germans were so boring. They obviously either hadn’t encountered many snipers in the rest of their European campaign or just doled out very sub-par counter sniper training at their Boot camps.
Once, he remembered fondly, some Italian soldiers had given him a real challenge; constantly changing position, intelligently using covering fire, creating distractions, employing a counter sniper - the works. He had almost been sorry to kill them. They were the only real sport he was to encounter.
Their commander, a staunch, mustachioed hulking pillar of a man, in his primped black uniform, quite resembled the hyper-real stylized images of Stalin on the pre-war propaganda posters - the irony wasn’t lost on him, in fact, it had been the only time he’d actually had cause to genuinely chuckle during this whole campaign.
He’d toyed with him for a while, testing him, to see how this interesting new prey would react. Intentionally picking off his men first, seven in total, in a prolonged battle, often right before the confounded man’s eyes, even as he was scanning the tower blocks desperately for the glint of a sniper scope. Then progressing to taking deliberate pot-shots when the commander was left alone as the last man standing, especially when he was moving from cover to cover. It was truly impressive the way he reacted under fire. Valiantly standing his ground when necessary. Cooly trying to better his position at all times, blind-firing as he ran. Constantly employing various lures and feints, trying to discern the shooters position.
Eventually he saw the exasperation on the mustachioed face and half-heartedly took the shot out of respect, before the man could be undignified with a final panic. Completely clean. A headshot. Upper left temple. The man fell slowly, almost in slow-motion, as if his soul was being stripped from him for a heroes’ welcome in the battle Valhalla.
The sniper rifle had been lowered briefly as he quickly but solemnly saluted the unknown soldier.
He had very much hoped to make his way down to ground level to examine the commander up close. See the man who had finally given him a challenge. Alas, another batch of Italian soldiers arrived, hooting and hollering madly on sighting the corpses and firing blindly at the surrounding high-rises. Their incompetency infuriated him - it was an affront to the fine tactician lying dead at their feet. He dispatched them all quickly, cruelly. Mostly targeting torsos. Neglecting to issue any coup de grâce shots.
He sighed. Now it was just the dull monotony of manning his post in the sector that probably got the least foot-traffic out of all of them.
He was disinterestedly watching the few remaining Germans dart from behind debris to debris. Completely oblivious to what direction they needed to be covered from. Simply content to follow what paltry tactics had been instilled into them during their inadequate training.
Some of his comrades had came through a few days ago, in the process of relocating to a different sector, and had jeered at his comparatively measly count thus far. Telling grand stories of picking off scores of Nazis foot soldiers at a time and destroying tanks by firing into their barrels as rounds were being loaded. He wasn’t sure whether they were true or not, but they made for decent entertainment as they all huddled around a small, covered fire they had started in one of the adjacent abandoned rooms and tried to ignore the biting cold and the vague sound of distant artillery fire. They exchanged tips and traded insight about the enemy soldiers’ tactics and the weak points on the various mobile armor units gleaned from each of their ordered stints at various sniper posts throughout the city.
At one point, before they all parted once more, the loudmouth of the group, a rookie sharpshooter who seemed to think he was God’s gift to war, had told them of some radio chatter he had intercepted, and despite the inane coded babble he’d had to listen to, what stood out was Axis officers repeatedly mentioning one General Patton in their casual talk to each other. A name, the Italians especially, said in a kind of fearful reverence. He was the American’s supreme cowboy it seems. It was said that where he led his tanks, nothing was left standing. His battalion was undefeated, unstoppable, led by his perfect tactical backing. Outmaneuvering and overwhelming all resistance.
One of the German soldiers, a teenager at most by the looks of it, was beginning to freak out, dropping his gun and retreating against a nearby wall, eyes wide in fear, hands raised. He was screaming something, a yell tinged with obvious distress. The young conscript soldiers did have a tendency to lose their nerve once their first actual firefight happened. War is a lot less romantic when bullets start firing and you have innards splattered all over your face and uniform as you see a friend downed right besides you.
Two of the other soldiers were slowly pacing towards him, voices raised, guns raised. The rest looked on cowardly, occasionally throwing worried glances back towards the tower block.
‘The Germans do seem to have a great love for shooting whoever they can qualify as “deserters” unfortunately’ watching and anticipating the upcoming melee, he thought detachedly. ‘For some of them, it’s the only kill the war will offer’.
He reflected that he’d quite like to meet this Patton in combat someday. Maybe even as an enemy. A good tank unit proves the ultimate test for a sniper. Most will just run in blind terror as the tank crew inevitably starts taking pot-shots at their building, tearing chunks from it with shell fire. The patient sniper knows to keep moving, stay out of sight and wait for them to maybe open that hatch to better reconnoiter the surroundings, to just give you an opportunity somewhere, and if not, to slip up and give you a chance to get the hell out of there. He’d had a recoilless rifle at one point actually, pilfered from a passing Nazi anti-armor team he’d downed. That thing could really devastate those metal beasts but it brought a lot of attention his way too. So ultimately it’d only gotten a single use.
More scratches added hastily. His knife edge was dulling now.
The two men lay dead, spread at the boys feet.
The most recent tank team he’d encountered were manning one of the larger German contraptions and they were unsurprisingly sloppy. Presumably they were on a patrol, or regrouping with a unit a long distance away but they were trawling along slowly when they got waylaid by the caltrops he’d laid down earlier. The little barbed implements simply ravaged one side of the tracks, completely tore the tread to shreds. Basically, they were going nowhere fast. Now there were quite a few bodies laid around the area at this point, and most in a fashion that was simply unmistakable as that of sniper casualties and yet, amazingly, the entire crew disembarked from the tank’s interior to inspect the damage.
He was so astonished at the extent of their stupidity that he could do nothing but watch as they chatted back and forth, idly kicking the dismantled tread and fruitlessly tried to radio someone to report the situation.
The boy stared at the bodies in disbelief for a second and then ran, shouting in incoherent hysteria, back towards where they had come from, across the bridge. The remaining soldiers instinctively leveled their guns at him and his commotion but then snapped out of their stupor and started to fire at the sniper’s tower.
Pulling the trigger was useless; the magazine had been emptied. He ducked down as the return fire from the startled two remaining men sprayed the wall surrounding his window opening. Fishing a fresh magazine from his belt he dropped out the depleted one and slapped the replacement in fiercely.
He waited for a pause in the firing, these Germans never did seem to know the value of cycling fire to avoid the vulnerability of simultaneous reloads.
He recalled how he had watched the tank crew survey their tank’s injury, and their amateur attempts to dislodge the caltrops, one even puncturing his hand in the process. What a ragtag operation they had. What irresponsible, desperate measures meant that men such as these were given sovereignty over a terrible machine of death like the one they’d so foolishly abandoned?
He’d dispatched the men quickly, with an apathetic clinical precision. Even killing two with a single shot to quicken the thing. Then he’d quietly and cautiously traipsed down to the wreckage, looking over what their ghosts had left behind - such a abhorrent thing indeed. What followed was scavenging for ammunition and utilizing a satchel charge requisitioned from one of the fallen to blow up the eyesore and then scurrying back into his building.
A silence finally fell over the square, pierced only by their frenzied yells of desperation as they fumbled, struggling to quickly reload, so that he popped up, quickly pressing the scope recess to his cheek and sighting the two scrambling German soldiers.
The three men had fell in a neat pile.
He had some difficulty etching these next marks into the frozen wood, there could be no doubt now, his blade was truly blunted at this point, it’s ragged metal edge was basically useless in anything other than the crude engraving now. He surveyed the ledge once more. It was now literally covered with tally marks. A hundred or so easily.
He watched the boy run off into the horizon until he turned a corner towards the bridge.
Sighing again, he said under his breath. ‘Godspeed boy! I do hope you learn from this experience. Hell, I hope you rise through the ranks and get your own unit, train them properly, and to thank me you can bring the sons of bitches back here to give me some excitement finally!’
He slumped down against the wall and began methodically dismantling the scope to clean it once more. It was a labor of love; he rubbed the icy glass in circles with a cloth, dislodging the crystalline patterns.
The German soldier turned into the doorway and saw the Russian sitting there toying with something, he shrieked unintelligibly in triumph and bloodlust, leveled his rifle, firing four shots. Two of the bullets missed but the other two hit the man in the shoulder and in the gut.
He lay there groaning, trying to reach for his gun but couldn’t move his arm, the bone had been shattered by the impact. Blood spurted from the gunshot wound in his abdomen
Slowly and cautiously pacing towards him, keeping his gun pointed at the downed Soviet, the German kicked away the rifle.
He looked over the multitude of marks carved into the windowsill with furious awe. He shouted something angrily in German and rapidly emptied the remaining few bullets in his clip to the center-mass of the sniper. The man clutched upwards once, groaned loudly and slumped down onto the floor, surrounded by a growing pool of blood.
The German spat at the man’s body in disgust and swore. Next he pulled a knife from a holster on his chest, the shiny Hitler Youth insignia shimmering in the dull winter sunlight, and coldly surveying the window ledge once more, fashioned a new tally on the wooden wall paneling above the fresh corpse, carving some kind of identifying symbol and then a single line for the count underneath.
The sound of many tanks crossing the bridge could now be heard, and the German scout re-holstered his knife and reloaded his gun. Looking over the morbid scene once more before leaving the apartment to rejoin his brothers.